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Episcopal Church Numbers Keep Falling

by | Tue, Oct 3 2023

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The American Episcopal Church lost more than 90,000 members last year, but it also reported a substantial rise in Sunday worship attendance.

The church has around 1.6 million members among nearly 7,000 congregations. The average Sunday attendance has risen to around 375,000 — up 20% on the previous year. That’s still less than a quarter of its total membership, and just two thirds of pre-pandemic levels. The Christian Post reports annual donations are steady at just over A$2 billion.

An analysis of parochial data revealed that while attendance “declined dramatically” during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, it seems to be rebounding. “While not back to the pre-pandemic levels, there are signs of recovering some of the lost Sunday attendance,” it said. The latest figures did not include ‘virtual attendees’ from congregations that offer an online option for services.

A decade ago in 2013, Sunday attendance totaled more than 657,000. In 2019, it was still strong at 547,000. The Christian Post writes that the Episcopal Church has been experiencing considerable decline, especially among baptised members and worship attendees. In 2010, the denomination’s total membership dipped below two million and has lost more than 400,000 members since.

Some have attributed this decline to the denomination’s ‘progressive’ theological direction, especially since it ordained its first bishop who was openly in a same sex relationship in 2003. Large numbers of members and congregations broke away in response.

In November 2020, Reverend Dwight Zscheile, an Episcopal priest and professor, was reported by Church Leaders as warning that, at its current rate of decline, the Episcopal Church will effectively cease to exist by 2050. “The overall picture is dire, not just one of decline as much as demise within the next generation unless trends change significantly,” he was quoted as saying.